I grew up in Sunnyside Gardens, in New York City's
Borough of Queens. A fifteen-minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan,
Sunnyside Gardens includes parts of sixteen city blocks with shady streets and over 600 two-
three-story attached houses encircling lush community courtyards,
a few taller apartment buildings on the avenues.
America's first successful experiment with garden-city design, and now a National Register Historic District, Sunnyside Gardens is a 77-acre planned community begun in 1924 (by a group including Clarence Stein, Louis Mumford and Eleanor Roosevelt) to provide affordable working-class housing. Designed "for living not for selling", it was so successful that it influenced all urban planning that followed - and also remains a choice housing location, a green oasis close-by Manhattan. Its early Green thinking included streets lined with sycamore trees, and common, traffic-free interior courts. It boasts one of only two private parks in New York City. (The other is the more famous Gramercy Park. But Sunnyside Park is far larger and includes ballfields, tennis courts, a wading pool, even woods with grills and picnic tables.)
I liked Sunnyside Gardens. It taught me that planned communities can benefit their citizens and thrive. Sunnyside fans can read much more about it and its surrounding community, at the following links.
The Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance:
Visit the neighborhood preservation group's web site, and run your cursor over its early Sunnyside Gardens map (with courtyard names and original street names).
Sunnyside, Queens, ‘Mayberry’ Near Midtown (NY Times, March 18, 2015). The Gardens blurs into greater Sunnyside in this real-estate article and in its accompanying slide show, "Living in Sunnyside, Queens". The greenery of The Gardens is conspicuously absent in these photos, but the rising cost of living is all too apparent.
Sunnyside Gardens - A Pioneering Queens Garden Community Flourishes Anew:
A good new article by Julia Vitullo-Martin, who thanked me for help from this web site.
Real Estate: A Home Among Trees (NY Times, Nov. 29, 2009)
The small rooms that kept housing affordable are being converted into expensive real estate.
Sunnyside - Their Place in the Sun:Sunnyside Gardens Neighborhood History Project:
I found this newspaper article within Newsday's excellent but now abandoned website for Long Island history.
A good 1998 study and public presentation, re the history and sociology and original plan.
A Fact Sheet for Residents of Sunnyside Gardens:
In 2002, the NYC Dept. of City Planning reiterated these special zoning regulations for the special community of Sunnyside Gardens (includes another plan view).
Sunnyside Gardens Historic District Designation Report (New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; June 27, 2007).
Sunnyside Gardens history buffs: Begin here! It's excellent, detailed (totalling over 380 pages!), and with great citations. It's on-line for your convenience. And it did the job, making the case that made Sunnyside Gardens a National Register Historic District.
Friends: The Miller home was 39-19 47th Street, in Roosevelt Court (see pages 88, 283 and 285).
"Toward New Towns for America", by Clarence S. Stein:
This 1951 book includes, in its first chapter, an excellent description of the compromises that determined the 1924-28 creation of Sunnyside Gardens, and an analysis of its success. Along with Lewis Mumford and Henry Wright, Stein was a founding member of the Regional Planning Association of America, a group instrumental in importing Ebenezer Howard's garden city idea from England to the United States. Radburn, NJ is their most famous collaboration; but first, they built Sunnyside Gardens. Chapter six discusses the Phipps Garden Apartments.
Phipps Garden Apartments - In the northeast corner of Sunnyside Gardens alongside Sunnyside Park, the Phipps Garden Apartments opened in 1931 and also featured enclosed open space. We are pleased to present its original apartment-rental brochure (courtesy of the Rev. Michael Moran, an early tenant):
entrance elevation view and convenient location;
features ("..unusually well planned.. Under owner-management, tenants' interests are always of first importance");
floor plans (and aerial perspective, "How the Garden gets maximum sunlight through the entire day").
Michael also supplied this, "from another early advertisement for Phipps":
interior courtyard photographs.
Old Pictures and A Brief History from the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce:
From about 1900 on: Farms, pond by Skillman Ave., early construction of Sunnyside Gardens and more.
1918 Sunnyside Map - This detail from a Queens, NY map in the U.S. Library of Congress shows the "new" Long Island Railroad Yard, and the areas that westerly move freed up for Sunnyside Gardens to arrive in 1924. The rails leave the yard southeast but not yet northeast, and 48th Street hasn't yet been cut through the newly-opened land. (On this map, 48th St. will cut through the L and E in "Middleburg Ave.", now 39th Avenue.)
Sunnyside Map - Note the original street names (Carolin St. instead of 47th Street), Sunnyside Gardens park not shown, etc. And more about Sunnyside , from the Queens Chamber of Commerce
Current Sunnyside Gardens map (maps.google.com has added most of the original street names).
The Sunnyside Sound Project - Sabine Heinlein's fascinating sound bites from the world citizens of Sunnyside, NY.
"Small Town in the Big City: A History of Sunnyside and Woodside," by Pam Byers.
I've yet to find and read this book.
"Sunnyside", by Donna Cantor; 1999 novel, in paperback.
Its story takes place among the apartment blocks by Queens Boulevard and 40th Street, not nearly as ritzy as our old Sunnyside Gardens, but still a wonderful trip back to old territory. Bells ring on every page.
"Dissident Gardens", by Jonathan Lethem; 2013 novel, with this good NY Times review.
The Sunnyside paintings (Cityscapes 1-4) of Simon Donikian.
I love these paintings, abstract images of my birthplace.
Current news, in the West Queens Gazette.
Queens Tribune archives: 2000 history, etc.
LI Yellow Pages for Sunnyside: (discontinued 2005?):
First on the list [was] the Skillman Superette (the old Rogen's grocery).
Current Sunnyside area population statistics.
Sunnyside Branch of Queensborough Library (local books, studies, maps).Sunnyside Neighborhood web page of "Forgotten NY" (new link, Dec. 2005).
At first glance I like both, and recommend them to you.
A Walk Through Queens includes an excellent tour, resources and more.
"The Queens Board", an online message board for Queens history chats, etc.
Jahn's Ice-Cream Parlor, not in Sunnyside but it was a must-go.
IRT Flushing Line #7, the elevated subway through Sunnyside:
When I was young, the subway took me everywhere in New York City for a nickel, with free transfers to other trains and buses - and admission to most museums was free!
A view from the Bliss Street station platform.
Movie clips from that elevated subway platform and nearby.
1939 World's Fair Subway Guide to NYC.
A view from the Lowery Street station platform, followed by The Subway In Pictures (NY Times, Oct. 21, 2010).
The Spell of the El, by Sewell Chan (NY Times, May 1, 2005).
More (lots more!) on the NYC subway system at New York City Subway Resources and The Joe Korner.
A great resource for Long Island history. - including the Queensboro Bridge and this (precursing Sept. 11th, 2001) WWII raid on NYC.
If you like this page, we think you'll like "Remember When".
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